Laura Gómez: Silicon Crusader
Story By: Jodi Jordan
Make way, stubborn obstacles of diversity in tech: Laura Gómez, founder/CEO of Atipica, has breached the portals of Silicon Valley’s upper strata with her brainchild; a venture-backed data and machine learning startup for the talent lifecycle. Decoded, Atipica quantifies the benefits of diversity through highly sophisticated data. Gómez is shattering glass ceilings and kicking down doors with A.I., titanium tenacity, and a heart full of joy. This is Laura’s world. She speaks the language of “the Valley,” and they are finally listening.
In the tech game it’s unquestionably a race about who’s first to the party – and to the finish line. It can be a slog, but for the intrepid Gómez it was a destiny moment. In 2014, she seized the diversity baton that no one else seemed willing to grasp — and ran with it. A hard-core techie, Gómez proposed using predictive data cases analysis to drive home the point for diversity of Latinos in tech. Gómez’s nerdy but nice approach to the dearth of diversity captured the interest of thought leaders.
Timing was right but it wasn’t easy. Gómez asserts, “I always say it takes ten years of work to look like an overnight success; I make sure that everyone who works with me knows that.” However, Atipica was an idea for which the execution was overdue, and Gómez was the apt choice to lead the effort.
“A lot of joy comes from this business, and as a Latina it’s another intersection, and I’m a woman,” she said. “It’s also very joyful; I learn every day. It’s not about me. I don’t think of the success of Laura Gómez; I think it’s a milestone for other Latinos. For them to see that I could have a mission-driven start up.”
Gómez obviously feels she has a responsibility.
“I care deeply in our DNA about diversity in our community; that I can build a successful business. I think that’s really important,” she added. “I’m a California immigrant from Mexico. I was undocumented until I went to Berkeley. It’s important to understand immigration reform … a lot of entrepreneurs come here from different countries to pursue their dreams.”
Initially, like many crusaders in the making, Gómez wasn’t quite convinced of her special powers until others made her aware of her potential. Gómez came to the U.S. from Mexico as a child; her mother’s health issues drove them north, but des-tiny planted their roots where her nascent intellect got the boost and encouragement that propelled her toward success.
“Through high school I had great teachers who said I could achieve anything I wanted,” she said. “I was always kind of skeptical. I grew up in the heart of Silicon Valley near Palo Alto. I remember getting my first email way back in high school where access to a computer was not standard, but because I grew up in Silicon Valley, it was very accessible.”
Gómez always has been ahead of the curve, jumping head first into tech at age 17. She pioneered with Twitter in its experimental stages as a founding member of the International team and spearheaded the social media site’ product explosion into multiple languages and scores of foreign lands.
“After my master’s I worked for some big names and small names and I think was active building out Twitter as a lead of localization,” she said. “I think being present at that time of hyper growth and change helps me when I talk to my clients.”
She also toiled at Jawbone, YouTube, Google Brasil, and AKQA London before taking the big leap. It took another journalist to point Gómez to her moment of destiny.
“I had been talking about diversity for a long time,” she recalled. “After I left Twitter I wrote my blog. A journalist who followed me said, ‘Hey there’s a lot of talks about diversity. Would you like to be on a panel? It’s with the editor in chief of USA Today, and they have a representative for diversity on Facebook and Google and Rev. Jesse Jackson is in.’ So I said, ‘yes I’d be more than happy to participate in this panel.’”
The seed that would grow to be Atipica was planted. “That’s where Atipica came in; everyone was talking about the pipeline … is there not enough talent to fill the different roles in tech companies? I replied, ‘yes, there is.’”
That led to the elephant in the room: biases.
“What are the biases? A lot of people talk about conscious and unconscious bias as it relates to diversity, so yes, we can all relate to this,” she said. “There are very conscious and unconscious patterns of bias that we adhere to, so that’s where Atipica came from a little over two years ago. I want to be able to learn data so that people can understand the ramifications of their choices now.”
Atipica is a work in progress. “We actually still focus on diversity on our own model, we’re powered by AI, artificial intelligence to learn the good things from computers and remove the things that humans tend to propagate — around talent acquisition, mobility, and employee happiness,” Gómez said. Initial funding came in from angel investors, while Gómez and her team had plenty of support in the community. “All of my early investors were Latinos,” she said. “Those were small amounts and it was enough to sustain me and my team early on.” Gómez and her team kept up the good work.
“About a year ago we got funded by True Ventures, which was sort of a monumental step for the company and me.”
Now she travels all over the world, answering questions, learning, sharing. She’s brutally honest; it sounds stressful.
“People ask me if regardless of gender or race if being a tech entrepreneur is a lonely ride even if you have a co-founder. I don’t have a co-founder! I’m a Latina founder — it’s like I took the path that’s most difficult,” she said. “Still, with all of this going on, I need to be grateful. and for this I do practice a lot of wellness around gratitude.”
Giving back for Gómez is work-related. She’s a founding member of Project Include, a non-profit organization that addresses diversity and inclusion in tech. Despite this all, she rejects the label of trailblazer.
“Paving the way is not really how I feel, it’s just, ‘can I just open some doors?’, and if I have to knock down some doors and endure challenges in the process, I’ll learn from those challenges and relay that back,” she said. “I think that’s really important. I’ve said this before, that everyone has a linear career path. I’m always asking what is my opportunity in giving others opportunity? I don’t take the success of my company for granted. The success of my company means the success of my community as well. I’m always asking how I can sustain success so that we don’t get pigeon holed into ‘oh, I invested one time into this Latina startup and it wasn’t this …’”
Gómez’s vision has attracted the Institute for Technology and Public Policy; she currently serves on the board alongside Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Secretary of State George P .Schultz.
“I want to de-politicize work opportunities thru data,” she said.
Obviously, this is terrific news for Latinos, women and all diversity candidates who have felt the sting of exclusion, but it is also good for the companies and clients that have opted to access Gómez’s brilliance to their own success advantage. Her next step is to raise the next round of funding.
“I want to raise another round and become a very highly valued startup,” Gómez said. “Ambition never sleeps. With entrepreneurship, it’s always something. Even if things are going really well. It’s like now … I need to hire more people. But there’s a lot of joy in that!”